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Retention and Intention in Massive Open Online Courses: In Depth

03 Jun

By Daphne Koller, Andrew Ng, Chuong Do, and Zhenghao Chen

Retention in MOOCs should be considered in the context of learner intent, especially given the varied backgrounds and motivations of students who choose to enroll. When viewed in the appropriate context, the apparently low retention in MOOCs is often reasonable.

In 2012, the typical Coursera massive open online course (MOOC) enrolled between 40,000 and 60,000 students, of whom 50 to 60 percent returned for the first lecture. In classes with required programming or peer-graded assignments, around 15 to 20 percent of lecture-watchers submitted an assignment for grading. Of this group, approximately 45 percent successfully completed the course and earned a Statement of Accomplishment. In total, roughly 5 percent of students who signed up for a Coursera MOOC earned a credential signifying official completion of the course.

For educators used to thinking about student attrition in a traditional university setting, the “retention funnel” in a MOOC can cause considerable alarm. To a university professor accustomed to the traditional audience of committed, paying students in a brick-and-mortar classroom, the image of continuously-emptying lecture halls — where only one in every 20 students remains to the end — is an understandably frightening prospect. But is this really the appropriate framework for thinking about student success in MOOCs?

Proponents of MOOCs often point to various compensatory factors in favor of online courses. These factors range from financial considerations, such as the rising cost of higher education and the low marginal cost of repeated offerings of MOOCs, to scale considerations: graduating even 5 percent of 100,000 students in a MOOC provides many instructors with substantially greater reach than an entire lifetime of teaching in a conventional classroom. While valid, these perspectives still do not directly address the concerns regarding low completion rates in MOOCs and their implications for the viability of high-quality online education.

In this article, we examine the issue of retention in online courses. We argue that retention in MOOCs should be considered carefully in the context of learner intent, especially given the varied backgrounds and motivations of students who choose to enroll. When viewed in the appropriate context, retention in MOOCs is often quite reasonable. Moreover, it helps highlight and understand the value obtained from MOOCs by the “non-completing” population, which can help us provide them, as well as the “completers,” with the learning experience best suited to their needs.

[ Full article available at EDUCAUSEReview.com: http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/retention-and-intention-massive-open-online-courses-depth-0 ]

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Posted by on June 3, 2013 in MOOCs in the News

 

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